Well, that’s understandable given the headlines. Just recently we learned about the first reported case of sexually-transmitted Zika infection here in the states and the declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the mosquito-borne virus is a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)” — a classification not given lightly.
However, let’s take a step back, and maybe a breath or two, and look at what this means for the general population in our region. Currently, the WHO and other experts do not anticipate Zika becoming a widespread threat in the United States. Additionally, unless you are pregnant, the virus is not a serious health threat, with more than 80% of people infected with Zika developing no symptoms at all.
The concern is that medical experts suspect that the spread of the virus, especially in Brazil where rates are highest, has coincided with a disturbing increase in the number of babies born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder characterized by an abnormally small head and potentially fatal developmental issues. There is no treatment for either the Zika virus or microcephaly.
So stay tuned, as researchers, epidemiologists and infectious disease docs are still unraveling the Zika situation. But in the meanwhile, here’s an A-to-Zika primer on what Roper St. Francis doctors want you to know.
What is Zika?
Zika is a virus transmitted primarily by mosquitoes found in certain areas of the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil and many of the Caribbean islands. For a complete list please see www.cdc.gov/zika/. An estimated 80 percent of those infected with Zika virus do not have symptoms.
How Can the Zika Virus Affect Me and My Unborn Child?
Pregnant women can be infected with Zika virus in any trimester. There have been reports in Brazil of birth defects and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. More studies are planned to confirm the suspected linkage of Zika to birth defects and to learn more about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.
Should I Avoid Traveling?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women or women planning a pregnancy postpone travel to any area where Zika virus has been found. If you must travel to one of these areas, you should discuss your plans with your doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
If I’m not Pregnant and Become Infected with the Virus, Will My Future Pregnancies be At Risk?
No. If you are infected by Zika, the virus usually remains in the blood for about a week. The virus will not cause infections in a baby that is conceived after the virus is cleared from the blood.
Is there a Vaccine to Prevent Zika or Medicine to Treat It?
No. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or medicine to treat Zika.
What Do I Do if I’m Pregnant and Have Been Exposed to Zika?
Contact your OB/GYN. If you meet the criteria to be tested, your healthcare provider will refer you to our Charleston Maternal Fetal Medicine Center.